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Could a drug used to treat brain bleeds help patients with optic neuritis?

Researchers are exploring whether medication could be repurposed to restore the function of the optic nerve

medication
Pixabay/HeungSoon

A team of scientists at University College London (UCL) are exploring whether a drug used to treat brain bleeds could be repurposed to help patients suffering from an eye condition commonly associated with multiple sclerosis (MS).

The research, which is funded by Fight for Sight, will trial the use of nimodipine in the treatment of optic neuritis.

In lab tests, the drug was shown to improve brain oxygenation and neurological function. 

Dr Anand Trip
Dr Anand Trip
If trials show nimodipine is effective in treating optic neuritis, the process of repurposing the medication should be relatively fast because it is already approved for use in humans.

Study lead at UCL, Dr Anand Trip, highlighted that currently episodes of optic neuritis in MS patients can only be treated with steroids.

“We know that acute problems with nerve function in MS are partly caused by decreased blood flow and low oxygen levels. Recently, it was demonstrated in the lab that nimodipine can acutely improve brain oxygenation and neurological function, sometimes dramatically so. It is our hope that we will now see similar results when we trial this with a small number of patients with optic neuritis,” he said.